A government-ordered report on tuition fees at colleges and universities in Ontario suggests that the tuition freeze for Canadian students, in place since 2019, should end, while per-student funding should be increased.
But will it actually happen?
Ontario tuition freeze since 2019
In 2019, the Ontario government cut Canadian student tuition by 10 percent, and implemented a freeze, holding the numbers steady since then. This has led to many schools increasing their reliance on international student admissions: international students pay three or even four times as much in tuition as Canadians for the same programs.
Now, a panel of experts is recommending the freeze be lifted, and per-student funding increased, to better support the student population as a whole, and reduce colleges' and universities' dependence on international students.
Ontario schools receive the lowest per-student funding of all provinces in Canada
The other half of the equation is increasing government funding on a per-student basis. According to the Council of Ontario Universities, Ontario schools receive just $8,647 per student, per year, compared to an average across Canada of $12,215 in 2020-2021.
Per-student funding is money that schools get directly from the province to help run the place. Tuition alone doesn't cover the costs of classes, professors, services, and so on, so colleges and universities get funds from the province for every student they enrol. Consequently, bigger schools get more funding as they enrol more students.
If the province were to give colleges and universities more funding per student, they wouldn't need to rely so heavily on international student admissions, and could offer improved services (especially around housing) to students.
Experts recommend a one-time five percent tuition hike for September 2024
Alongside an increase to the per-student funding model for Ontario, the expert panel that produced the report recommends a one-time tuition hike of five percent for September 2024, followed by annual raises tied to the rate of inflation.
As an example, a five percent increase would mean that tuition of $10,000 in 2023 would rise to $10,500 in 2024.
The government doesn't seem convinced
Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop, in charge of this file for the Ontario government, is instead focused on "efficiencies," which doesn't mean much. Her team will work with colleges and universities "in the weeks ahead," to ensure "greater efficiencies in operations, program offerings and sustainability of the sector."
So, change at this point doesn't seem certain, but things could change as the government meets with schools in the coming days.
The ongoing housing crisis
Ontario's currently in a housing crisis, with rents skyrocketing out of each for many people. Many international students have turned to room- and even bed-sharing agreements just to keep a roof over their heads, as most cities and towns lack the housing stocks needed to ensure students have a place to live.
This is on top of the expensive tuition fees international students must pay just to pursue the same diploma or degree as their Canadian counterparts.
Only time will tell if the government takes the advice of its commissioned experts and boosts the amount of funding per student, while raising the costs of tuition for Canadians. Whether doing so will have a measurable impact on schools' reliance on international students is hard to say.
Watch this space for more news as it comes.
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